Twitter: GeoffShac
Writing And Videos
  • Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    Tommy's Honor: The Story of Old Tom Morris and Young Tom Morris, Golf's Founding Father and Son
    by Kevin Cook
  • His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    His Ownself: A Semi-Memoir (Anchor Sports)
    by Dan Jenkins
  • Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    Players: The Story of Sports and Money, and the Visionaries Who Fought to Create a Revolution
    by Matthew Futterman

Some of the most interesting holes are those where the best line to the flag is not direct. A.W. TILLINGHAST


    

Monday
Jan052009

Lloyd Cole On Melbourne Golf

Don't miss Lloyd Cole's entertaining T&L Golf story on his Melbourne golf trip, complete with a tour of the essential MacKenzie designs and golf with Mike Clayton. There is also a sidebar with the courses listed and other suggestions.

That afternoon, Clayton drops me off at Kingston Heath Golf Club, where I’m joined by my Internet buddy, Rich. We “met” at an online golf forum, so I know he knows his architecture, but as for his game, I have no idea—we’re meeting in person for the first time. I’m one of those people who believes you can tell a lot about an unfamiliar playing partner by looking at the clubs in his bag. Rich’s are new, high-tech and very clean. If he had used iron covers I would have suggested a wager right then and there. He addresses his first tee shot looking stiff and tense. His backswing is overly long and his right elbow flies out, but somehow he returns the clubhead to the ball with considerable force and precision, sending it some three hundred yards down the middle. My weak, heeled fade is barely within sight of it. “We should have a match, don’t you think?” I squeak. “What’s your handicap?”

Monday
Jan052009

Gulbis Joins Twitter To Share Her Most Profound Promotional Tidbits

Noam Cohen looks at the sports stars Twittering or Tweeting or whatever you call the Twitter.com social networking tool that allows people to offer short messages on your whereabouts or, if you are an LPGA Tour star with a sordid history of really bad marketing ideas, your carefully cultivated branding messages.

First, though, there had to be a meeting between her media consultant, Kathleen Hessert, and other advisers.

“I had to talk her management team into it,” recalls Ms. Hessert, whose company, Sports Media Challenge, represents athletes and professional teams.

Deciding to join a service devoted to spontaneous, often spectacularly mundane updates throughout the day apparently was something to be thought out carefully. Ms. Gulbis and her team were concerned about who would be reading what she writes on Twitter and what they would do with the information.

“There is a risk,” Ms. Hessert conceded. “Whenever you open yourself to the public there is risk. The way I convinced her to do it, is to say that people see you one way and there is so much more.”

Ms. Gulbis agreed to use Twitter, but she said she wasn’t simply following Ms. Hessert’s lead. “When I decided to do Twitter, I had a plan — there is information I wanted to get out,” she said in a telephone interview last week from a yacht in the Caribbean. And she established clear parameters. “I don’t think I would ever Twitter about my personal life, who I was dating, who I was going out with. That is something I would be very protective of,” she said.

Instead, Ms. Gulbis’s tweets thus far tend to be circumscribed and have a clear point to make, whether it relates to her work on behalf of the Boys and Girls Clubs, or a sponsor, TaylorMade, or even the broad outlines of her oceangoing vacation. 

Lucky us!

Monday
Jan052009

"A family can add a nanny to the membership for $50 a year."

The Boston Globe's Stephanie Ebbert looks at changes New England area clubs are making to attract new members and keep old ones around in light of the economic crisis. Many are waiving initiation fees and trying to become more family friendly. Though I'm not quite sure about this...

As a result, some clubs are doing more to market themselves as family destinations. At Spring Valley Country Club in Sharon, a family can add a nanny to the membership for $50 a year. Spring Valley is offering new, lower-cost social memberships that lock in rates and guarantee no surprise assessments for three years.

"This allows you to bring in newer, younger families that want to utilize all aspects of the club - pool, food. That's a good thing," said membership director Jo Ann Parks. "The club is certainly reacting to what's going on with the economy, but I think we would eventually have come to this anyway. People's interests change."

Life is tough when you can't send the kids to the club because the nanny was not a member!

Sunday
Jan042009

Scientists: Golfers Could Go Deaf And Broke From Titanium Drivers

Actually, these "scientists" only mentioned the deaf part as Jonathan Brocklebank (he was a character in a Wodehouse novel, no?) reports in the Daily Mail:

Modern titanium clubs create a 'sonic boom' when they connect with the ball, say scientists.

The risk of going deaf is so great that doctors are advising golfers to wear earplugs while they play their tee shots.

I smell a class-action suit on behalf of all employees subjected to indoor hitting bay noise. Or maybe all Golf Digest Hot List judges?

Tests were carried out on six titanium clubs and six thickerfaced stainless steel models and sound levels measured.

While the steel clubs produced the agreeable 'tink' of a well-hit shot, the titanium ones were much louder, described by some as similar to a gun being fired.

Dr Malcolm Buchanan, an Edinburgh-trained ear, nose and throat specialist - and a keen golfer - said: 'Our results show that thin-faced titanium drivers may produce sufficient sound to induce temporary or even permanent cochlear damage in susceptible individuals.

'Players should be careful when playing with these thin-faced clubs as they make a lot more noise.'

Dr Buchanan, one of the authors of the report which appears in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal, added: 'Wearing earplugs is a possibility, although it might be a bit too radical for some.'

And in case you were wondering who the real offenders were:

They recruited a professional golfer to hit shots with six titanium clubs from manufacturers such as King Cobra, Callaway, Nike and Mizuno. All produced a louder noise than the stainless steel clubs. The worst offender was the Ping G10.

Sunday
Jan042009

Golf Channel's 2008 U.S. Open Rebroadcast

I don't know who at Golf Channel deserves the credit, but over the holidays its 2-hour edited rebroadcast of NBC's Sunday and Monday telecasts from Torrey Pines has been a pure delight to watch. Unlike the over-packaged one-hour highlight shows, we're getting the original announce feed and camera work, along with the occasional comments from GC's team of Kann-Chamblee and Nobilo taped from Torrey with the dramatic canyons as a backdrop.

Whoever at the USGA, NBC and Golf Channel engineered this deserves major kudos (and based on the calls I've gotten, the rebroadcasts are being watched pretty heavily).

I do remember that not to long ago, GC used to air classic PGA Tour events affording us the chance to hear the likes of Vin Scully and Lee Trevino. Wouldn't it be fun to watch more classic tournaments this way?

Sunday
Jan042009

Greenbrier For Sale

Thanks to reader John for this WSJ report that says Goldman Sachs has been brought into explain why you should buy a beautiful old place that lost $35 million last year.

Saturday
Jan032009

"These people are crazy, eh?"

Thanks to reader Peter for Bill Elliott's anecdote-rich tribute to Seve Ballesteros.

The first of those Masters wins came the following spring. By now he was an acknowledged phenomenon. He played golf like we all did, spraying the ball hither and thither, but, unlike us, he then recovered brilliantly. We loved him for his vulnerability. He brought a passion to golf that it never had before and has not enjoyed since. He made this stuffy old game seem sexy and exciting, so that men yearned to be him and women simply wanted to be with him. He was the godfather of the modern European Tour, moving the interest from golf lovers to general sports fans and non-sports-fans alike, and encouraging serious money into the game.

Before that 1980 Masters began I watched from the clubhouse at Augusta as he finished a practice round, several thousand fans embroidering the scene. It took him ages to make his way through the punters to the clubhouse and when he finally made it he looked at me and gave a huge grin. He held out his hand and when I held out mine he dropped several scraps of paper into it and laughed. Each contained a girl's name and a phone number. 'These people are crazy, eh?' he said. His English was much better by then.

Saturday
Jan032009

"A fair way from reality in year ahead"

As weird as 2008 was, I won't say that John Huggan's satirical preview of 2009 will be that far off. Especially that Billy Foster replacing Stevie part!

Friday
Jan022009

Golf As It Should Be Files: Santa Anita GC

The San Gabriel Mountains and just some of the clever man-made undulations at Santa Anita Golf Course (click image to enlarge)As much as travel, luck and effort will allow, I'm going to try and highlight more of the places in golf that define (for me) what the game is all about. This week I had the pleasure of teeing it up at Santa Anita Golf Course in Arcadia. It was the first time I had played there in over 20 years and while I knew it was a marvelous public golf course by including it in this L.A. Times piece of SoCal architectural gems, but I really never imagined just how idyllic it is as a model for what a golf course should be.

Not just a public course. A golf course of any kind.

Photos won't do the 6,400 yard course full justice. And I can only rave so much about the $23 green fee, excellent maintenance or the construction genius of the undulations before you start scrolling to the next post. So here goes.Wild undulations on the par-5 13th (click on image to enlarge)

A product of Works Progress Administration finances and crews, Santa Anita reopened in October of 1938 as a full length golf course next to the famed race track of the same name. According to an LA Times story, finances were apparently too lean to hire an architect, so a young county engineer named James Harrison Smith was given the task of designing the holes. He devoted a year to studying great holes and accumulating information. Assuming this was his only project, what transpired is one of the great one-hit wonders in golf architecture history.

The 14th fairway and elevated green. Wonderful contours make the short second shot to the elevated green that much trickier (click on image to enlarge)Crafted out of dead flat land, Santa Anita offers some of the wildest but most artfully constructed man-made undulations imaginable. Yet with Smith's engineering eye for drainage, they all work to also surface-drain the course. There isn't a catch basin to be found and when we played the golf course it had only a handful of wet spots just a few days after heavy rains. The bold, elevated green complexes had drained perfectly and rolled a stout 10 on the Stimpmeter.  Most modern architects accustomed to littering land with catch basins should study Santa Anita for the combination of clever contouring that affects strategy and function.

Smith's replica holes and homages are fresh but still respectful. He put his own stamp on each and named them (the names remain on the scorecard and tee signs). There's a Redan, a "Maiden, a "Thomas" (the boomerang first green in honor of George C.'s old 9th at Griffith Park-Harding) and assorted other themes.The wacky undulations under the 434-yard 18th fairway. The tee is to the right of this view and tee shots try to land over the mounding. Local legend suggests old trolley cars sit underneath, but no evidence confirms that (click to enlarge image)

While the course is short and over-landscaped for today's game, the undulating fairways and elevated, cleverly crafted greens expose poor shots to give the elite player plenty of trouble while still letting the average hack get it around. Old photos show that the course once had more hazards with great flair in their presentation, though the grandeur and funkiness of the contouring is actually highlighted by their depature.

Still, it would be fun to see the course with the kind of dramatic bunkering that it deserves both to heighten the experience and to attract more attention to this model of what a golf course should be about: fun, fun, fun.

Historica aerial viiew of the 9th, 18th and 10th fairways shows dramatic bunkering and fewer trees! (click on image to enlarge)In a grand southern California tradition, Santa Anita is largely unnoticed and unappreciated by the area's golfing elite. Perhaps it's the lack of wild hazards or a high-end fee burning a hole in their pocket or just the general SoCal ignorance of interesting architecture and history (btw, Lloyd Mangrum won the first two Santa Anita Opens).

Either way, don't despair. The combination of a smooth operation, low prices, excellent maintenance (no rough!) and the course's subtle charm has developed a loyal following and profits for all involved. I just wish there were many more Santa Anita's in the world of golf.

Friday
Jan022009

"Augusta is now one of the purest majors we play."

SI Golf Plus's excellent year-end issue featured a roundtable with scribes Garrity, Van Sickle, Bamberger and Shipnuck joining the "anonymous tour pro" for a discussion about 2009.

It's all quite entertaining in an pared-down sort of way, but one comment from Mr. Anonymous made me hurl my magazine across the room.

ABOUT THE MAJORS

Bamberger: Augusta National sets up for some semiobscure guy — like Zach Johnson or Brandt Snedeker — to have a great driving and putting week. To me, they have taken the emotion out of the tournament by toughening the course so much.

Van Sickle: The course negates ability because now you make birdies only by accident. They pushed the course to the brink of difficulty, and weather conditions can push it over the edge.

Garrity: If they fix the course the way we want, they may be left, once again, with ridiculously fast greens as the course's only defense. I didn't like that, either. Ease back on the course, and a Masters-regulated ball may be the only solution.

Anonymous Pro: I hate to say this, but Augusta is now one of the purest majors we play. With the length, the rough and especially the trees, it's less of a bomber's paradise. The trees have changed the course. They have Tiger-proofed it. They've taken a lot of the risk out of the course. You have to plod along and play to point A and B and C.

So let me get this right. It's the purest major they play, yet it takes away risk and you have to plod along and play to committee-dictated points of interest?

That's what a pure major does? Yikes.

Friday
Jan022009

Tiger To Top $1 Billion In '09 Even Without Buick's Help

Ron Sirak authors Golf Digest's annual look at overpaid aggressively compensated golfers and as usual, the numbers are staggering. ($3.5 million in off course earnings for Rory Sabbatini? Rory Sabbatini!). I look at this list and say, wow, Leno is a bargain at $17 million a year.

Twenty-two players have made the list all six years of its existence, led again by Tiger Woods with $117,337,626 in on-course and off-course earnings, moving him within $115 million of becoming golf's first $1 billion player (see chart below). And even Woods is not immune from the economic turmoil. His contract with General Motors, which earned him nearly $50 million over nine years, was terminated by mutual consent at the end of 2008 with a year left to run.

But despite the economic situation, it appears companies will stay active with athletes and the games they play for one simple reason: It makes business sense. The PR difficulty of investing in athletes during tough times "certainly is a perception issue," says David Carter, University of Southern California sports-business professor and founder of Sport Business Group, a strategic-marketing firm based in Los Angeles.

Wednesday
Dec312008

More-Than-You-Ever-Wanted-To-Know-Alert: Experts Break Down Obama's Swing

After his third round of golf, it's becoming apparent that President-elect Barack Obama is not only determined to save the world, but more importantly, the game of golf. Or at least, instill a much needed coolness factor. We can't buy this kind of pub! (And Michael Bloomberg just made an Obama golf reference on the Times Square show...the hits just keep on coming.)

Mark Silva of the Chicago Tribune has fun analyzing the pool reporter's round three notes.

As highlighted by Larry Dorman in today's New York Times, Golf Digest debuts its presidential rankings in the February issue due on stands Tuesday (already on my newstand). Presidential golf historian Don Van Natta Jr. shares many new insights into Obama's game, including this:

And in golf, as in life, Obama refuses to take any shortcuts. "When he'd shoot an 11 on a hole, I'd say, 'Boss, what did you shoot?' " says Marvin Nicholson, 37, the Obama campaign's national trip director and now a special assistant to the president-elect. "And he'd say, 'I had an 11.' And that's what he'd write on his scorecard. I always respected that."

Okay, it's a new year and I vowed to be less of a bitch, but someone needs to tell them we don't shoot 11s. We make them! Shoot? Maybe cats, or in Alaska, a moose, but not golf scores that we put on little cards.

As for the swing analysis you've all been waiting for, John Hopkins and gets into the act.  And at GolfDigest.com, they managed to pull Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter and Jim Flick away from prized pupils to break down Obama's swing via the good old fashioned telephone.

Here's Flick's take. And Leadbetter's is here. And if you absolutely have no life whatsoever, here's Butch's take.

Wednesday
Dec312008

Daly Given Six Months To Test Out European Tour Events...

...Doug Ferguson reports on what has to be one of the longest suspensions the PGA Tour has ever handed out. I'm not sure if the crimes (fat, drunk, stupid, angry) are commensurate with the length of the time off, but maybe it'll help him turn his life around. Or just to spend more time in the Middle East come January?

Tuesday
Dec302008

2008

Most of my feelings about 2008 can be summed up in this Golfdom year-end story. Because while there were all of those dreadful stories that only a blogger could love (Tilghman/Golfweek noose debacle, the Bivens/LPGA English policy debacle, Stevie/Phil is a prick debacle), 2008 reminded golfers what an amazing, splendid, chill-inducing, awe-inspiring sport this can be when the world's best are allowed to display their skill.

As I note in the Golfdom story, the spectacle at Torrey Pines was surely made historic and unforgettable by Tiger's physical condition combined with Rocco's incredible effort. And you had the added emotions of contesting an Open at a course so pivotal in Tiger's upbringing, in a first and second round pairing with Phil Mickelson, the list goes on and on.

But like a great film with a strong cast, amazing effects and the best crew money can by, it all can only go so far on a thin story. In the case of Torrey Pines, this was not a strong story of a golf course. But the USGA setup took that barebones story and drenched every living bit of life out of a fairly bland 18 holes to provide Tiger, Rocco and many other contenders an incredible stage to perform on.

While few writers seized on this side of the Torrey Pines equation or its obvious freeing of Paul Azinger to aggressively set up Valhalla in a player-friendly manner that led to epic displays of skill under pressure from boths squads, it's still wonderful to see how the U.S. Open was the sole focus of most year-in-review stories. It was a special week for those of us who were lucky enough to be there and for everyone who huddled by a television to watch a truly unforgettable moment in sport.

I know I've missed a few, but here's a paritial list of the year end summaries:

GolfChannel.com's staff is counting down the best of 2008.

John Hopkins in The Times.

John Huggan's Huggy's.

Jeff Babineau in Golfweek.

Gary Van Sickle at golf.com.

Larry Dorman of the New York Times.

And finally, Doug Ferguson shares his favorite anecdotes.

Happy New Year! 

Tuesday
Dec302008

2008 Miscellaneous Mop-Up

As for big changes in 2009, I don't have too many planned. Not yet anyway.

Expect a few more course design project videos, perhaps no longer opening story links in new windows (only because that seems to be a web standard now) and yes, there might be advertising (contemplating joining an ad network devoted to golf sites).

Unique visitors and page views were up over last year, which is amazing considering the expected traffic drop off after Tiger went on leave. That was compounded by the economic crisis where the markets most tumultuous days definitely impacted visits here (and surely all other non-banking websites).

As always, the strength of this site remains the quality of the comments you all leave. I'm quite lucky to have such a diverse readership and it's always fascinating how many golf industry people are obsessed with comments made. That's a tribute to you all.

Please use this opportunity not to heap glowing praise but to offer any and all constructive criticism you'd like to share to help make this site better. And finally, while there really is no good reason I can think of to share this,  maybe someone out there will get a kick out of knowing this about the GeoffShackelford.com readership...

Operating System Preference:

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MacOSX  14.78%
WinVista 6.6% (ouch!)
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Win2000 2.77%
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Win98  0.51%
Linux 0.48%
iPhone 0.35% (it's a start)
WinNT  0.14%
Win9x  0.1%
WinNT4  0.06%
WinMobile0.05%
Win95 0.05%
MacOS 0.01%
WinME 0.01%
Win310.01%
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PlaystationPortable  0%
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Playstation3 0%
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Tuesday
Dec302008

The Bookies Are Really, Really Tired Of Losing Money On Tiger Woods

Because as The Guardian's Dan Roebuck reports, these prices look "short"...

Despite Woods' absence from the fairways as he recovers from surgery following his incredible win at Torrey Pines in June, the world No1 still heads the betting for the two 2009 majors the layers have priced. Woods is 5-2 (Sky Bet) for the Masters and 3-1 (Hill's and Totesport) to win the Open . Even for a man that has so often defied the odds those prices look short.

Woods will not make a competitive return until the spring – Sportingbet offer 9-4 he will next tee up in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, two weeks before the Masters. He may, of course, not make the line-up at Augusta which means Phil Mickelson would almost certainly take over at the top of the market.

Lefty, who has won twice and rewarded each-way backers six times in eight years, is 10-1 generally. If Woods, who is 13-8 (Sky Bet) to lose his top spot in the world ­rankings in 2009, looks out of touch on his return, Mickelson's price will go only one way – so the advice is to back him now.

I think I'll take a rain check on that.

Tuesday
Dec302008

Ginn FInally Files...

...defaulting on a $675 million loan...Jeff Ostrowski reports (thanks Steven T.)

Two affiliates of Celebration-based Ginn Resorts last week filed a flurry of Chapter 7 petitions. Ginn sought bankruptcy protection for Tesoro and for Quail West in Naples. Tesoro will continue operations under the supervision of the bankruptcy court and a court-appointed trustee until the property is sold, Ginn said in a statement.

The two Ginn subsidiaries, Ginn-LA CS Borrower LLC and Ginn-LA Conduit Lender Inc., owe Credit Suisse $675 million. Ginn defaulted on loan payments in June and had been negotiating with its lender since then.

The loan covered Tesoro, Quail West, Ginn sur Mer in the Bahamas and Laurelmor in North Carolina. Ginn said it has found a new owner for Laurelmor and entered into a joint venture with the lender to complete Ginn sur Mer. 

Tuesday
Dec302008

PGA Tour To Donate Unwanted PLAYERS Gear To Local Hospitals

Wow, those lucky kids born at Baptist Heath hospitals get all the perks:

This year, the first babies of 2009 born at each of Baptist Health's hospitals will receive a large gift bag courtesy of THE PLAYERS Championship. The gift bag will include ball caps, T-shirts, lanyards and coffee mugs for the new parents; a beach towel; seat cushion; and a beanie bear for the first baby born at Baptist Medical Center Downtown, Baptist Medical Center Beaches, Baptist Medical Center Nassau and Baptist Medical Center South.

In addition, every baby born at one of the four Baptist Health hospitals between January 1 and May 1, 2009 will receive a complimentary T-shirt that says, "THE PLAYERS Future Champion." Parents of the babies born during that period also will be invited to register for a special Mother's Day prize package, which will provide one family with the opportunity to experience THE PLAYERS Championship in May. These gifts from THE PLAYERS are intended to help Moms and Dads celebrate their champions while helping to grow future golf fans.

Tuesday
Dec302008

Collectors: Get Your Pro-V1s!

Only one day left, according to Susan Baird, as Acushnet is recalling all of the remaining nonconvernted balls on shelves in response to its appeals loss.

Meanwhile, however, a lower-court injunction that takes effect Jan. 1 will bar the sale of Titleist golf balls manufactured using the contested technology. (The balls will remain legal for consumer use and tournament play, Acushnet noted.)

So this fall – while also launching a bid to block the injunction, an effort that failed last week (READ MORE) – Acushnet stopped using the disputed technology. Last month, it began shipping to retailers the “converted” Pro V1 and Pro V1x models. And last week, Acushnet said it would accept returns from retailers of any remaining nonconverted balls, although it did not believe any recall was necessary.

But now, Acushnet has decided to play it safe.

In what it described as an effort “to remove this uncertainty from the marketplace,” the company this week issued a call for U.S. retailers to return to the company all nonconverted Pro V1 and Pro V1x balls that remain in their inventories as of Jan. 1.

Monday
Dec292008

"Critics call it a resort for union leaders that wastes money from union dues."

I'm feeling a lot less sympathetic about the UAW's plight after reading this FoxNews.com story (thanks to all of the readers who sent it in). Not because UAW leadership built a lavish $33 million lakeside retreat that is now burning a hole in union pockets. No, because they spent that on and got this (see photo, left).

Even as the industry struggles with massive losses, the UAW brass continue to own and operate a $33 million lakeside retreat in Michigan, complete with a $6.4 million designer golf course. And it's costing them millions each year.

The UAW, known more for its strikes than its slices, hosts seminars and junkets at the Walter and May Reuther Family Education Center in Onaway, Mich., which is nestled on "1,000 heavily forested acres" on Michigan's Black Lake, according to its Web site.
But the Black Lake club and retreat, which are among the union's biggest fixed assets, have lost $23 million in the past five years alone, a heavy albatross around the union's neck as it tries to manage a multibillion-dollar pension plan crisis.